For the past few weeks, our class has been reading The Bar Code Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn. I'll be honest, I'd never read the book before. It was chosen by the faculty of my school last year, so when I accepted my new position, books were ordered and the class was set. As I read the dystopian/sci-fi, I was intrigued by the themes -- in a new futuristic world of 2025, barcodes were embedded into people's arms as a way of interacting - as payment, tracking, identification, classification, etc. When it became required by law -- the question is will people be able to resist and survive, or will they be swallowed by Global-1?
In an effort to move beyond the "guide questions" model of whole-class novels resulting in immense boredom by every party involved, we've been integrating blogs, collaborative thematic analysis and creative endeavors to dissect the dystopian vision. Therefore, one of the assignments I designed was to create an advertisement or meme for both sides of the debate in the novel: the Global-1 dominating force (the new corporation in place of the government), or the small, but vital circle around the protagonist of "resistors" to the movement, urging people to decode and not get the barcode.
We used google drawings (as I told my class, step 1 to learning how to photoshop), and I modeled making an ad on both sides of the spectrum. I was incredibly impressed and decided instead of just letting the display live on our class websites and our bulletin board, to tweet the author! I'd been honored to get some replies from authors in recent months about just my reactions to books so I figured, why not?
Here is the exchange:
Now, it may not be much, but to my first block, it was EVERYTHING.
We spent a majority of class this past week looking at her twitter, dissecting everything we could find, and deciding the best questions to ask her.
The opportunity to have such a direct line to an author is something I could've never imagined when I was in school. Growing up, it was an incredible honor when we had an author visit at our school, which was a rare occasion. I'll never forget waiting for months to find out who it would be, obsessively reading all the author's books, and then eagerly saving up money to buy the book so I could have that inked signature forever.
So thanks, Suzanne Weyn, for being on Twitter and being generous enough with your time to respond. Thanks for taking the reading off the page and making it relevant to our real-world. Thanks for expanding our reading lives and diving into the current events discussion we are now grappling with. We love you, and we love twitter!
So if you've been thinking of joining Twitter, have one and don't use it, or have it and have yet to bring it into your classroom -- I urge you to! It will bring life, authenticity, and relevance; it will bring beloved surprises for you and students along the way.